How to Find Business Analyst Volunteer Positions

If you are not yet a business analyst and are not currently employed, it can be really tough to dig up business analyst projects. (While an individual employed in an office setting, regardless of their job title, can kickstart a virtuous cycle of one BA opportunity leading to another, this option isn’t available to the unemployed or those employed outside an office setting.

Yet that doesn’t mean you don’t have any opportunities. They might just be a bit different. You know that you can expand the work history section of your resume by volunteering, but how do you actually find these positions?

Idea #1 – Look to Non-Profits

It’s very likely that the non-profits that you care about need business analysis support and can’t afford to hire a business analyst as part of their full-time staff. Non-profit organizations have business processes, often significant ones. Often because their organizations are grown by a variety of grassroots efforts, those processes are not well documented or understood.

Enter in you as a business analyst.

I’ve helped course participants document processes for their church, local parent-teacher group, and local organizations for which they already serve as volunteer.

Idea #2 – Look to Small Businesses

Like non-profits, small businesses are often not in the position to hire a full-time business analyst but are definitely in need of BA services. One of our course participants volunteered at a local pharmacy, the owner of which happened to be well-connected in her target industry. After about 10 hours of pro bono work she’d secured a valuable item to add to the work history section of her resume and talk about in job interviews.

For another example of how this works, read how Kimberley Heath volunteered to expand her BA experience.

Here’s the Really Important Thing

When you first approach an organization about volunteering as a business analyst, they might not understand your offer. If you say “do you need a BA?” And they say “no”.

That might seem like the end of the story, but it’s not.

Just like a lot of companies out there, those desperately needing volunteers don’t necessarily understand the business analyst role. That means they don’t understand your offer.

Instead, ask probing questions to get to some of the pain points you might help them solve using business analysis techniques. (And in the process, you’ll already be using some elicitation.) Then offer to help them solve a specific problem.

And There’s One More Thing Not To Do

Since you are volunteering, it can be tempting to wait for the “perfect” position instead of jumping into a “good enough” role and creating a business analyst position out of the opportunity. Just like most BA professionals morphed their way into business analyst positions, the volunteer position market is similar. An open mind and a drive to apply the BA fundamentals will open opportunities.

But first you have to get started.

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Comments

  1. DougGtheBA says:

    I’d like to second the motion on your thoughts about jumping in to volunteer. This is a really satisfying and rewarding venture that pays dividends to he/she who volunteers.

    Your last point Laura, about documenting processes and such for small business is an amazingly untapped area. While it’s generally not something where an analyst can walk in off the street and request access to the inner working of a firm, there are many organizations that we as individuals know someone in charge or the owners. They typically don’t even know that it’s a good idea to have practices in place to govern daily operations. An analyst’s value is very high in these situations, as the small business in today’s economy needs all the strengthening it can get. Concurrently, volunteering leads to exposure of many different business types and models for the analyst to add to his or her experiences.

  2. Hi Laura,

    You are a wealth of information and it’s been very informative to read through your articles.

    When you suggest helping someone you know who runs a small business, what type of work do you envision one being able to do? Even to take the example you mentioned (mother runs a bakery) – where would one start to become involved in this process?

    Thanks in advance,
    Anthony

  3. Thank you Anthony!

    What I’ve found is that most small businesses, including my own, are very reliant on their owner. Everything from the vision to the details of customer service, finance, and marketing are all in the owner’s head. This makes it very difficult to bring on new staff and scale the business.

    I think someone with the aptitude for business analysis can help that business owner break down their day-to-day work into repeatable processes, establish roles and responsibilities, etc. Basically, I’m talking about giving a view into the structure of the business–it’s there in the owner’s mind but it isn’t exposed and documented in such a way that intelligent decisions can be made around it. You might do this on a large scale (the whole business) or a small scale (take one part of the business or even one process).

    The best book I’ve found to help me through this process is E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

    In terms of where would one start, I’d say you start by talking to a business owner that might be interested, understand their pain points, and provide some suggestions as to how you might best help.

    Best,
    Laura

  4. Laura

    Great post! You’ve helped me realize what it is that I can do for a friend of mine who recently started a small wine importing/consulting business. I was already thinking about how to help him build a simple inventory application; but now it has become clear that I can help him by defining his business/importing process as well. Thanks!

  5. Hey Laura,

    I read this article few days ago, and approached few of local BA related association, one of them ACS foundation call me this morning for documents collecting, as they are int he last 2 days before close some of the scholarship application. That’s awesome.

    I will keep you posted about how my career going, got friend of mine referred me to his manager for volunteer job for PA position as well after I posted my advertise online say looking for volunteer job, someone say: hi, maybe I could help you.

    I see my BA career approaching me day by day…….

    Crystal